Pirates first-round draft choice Travis Swaggerty Jr. was bursting with pride Friday when he signed his contract, tried on a big-league jersey, shook hands with general manager Neal Huntington and met with the media.
A smile appeared to be permanently attached to his face.
But he wasn’t too proud to admit to how he reached this stage of his 20-year-old life.
“I was a pretty aggravating kid,” he said. “I always wanted to be first, first in line going to lunch. I wanted to be first out the door. That alone has helped my success.”
Added his father, Travis Swaggerty Sr., “He was out of control almost. He was so driven to want to do anything first.”
As much as possible while holding only the 10th overall draft pick last week, the Pirates satisfied that need in Swaggerty, making him their top draft choice. The former South Alabama center fielder will report Saturday to the Pirates’ Single-A team, the West Virginia Black Bears.
— Travis Swaggerty (@TSwaggerty_21) June 15, 2018
He was so eager to return to baseball activities after the draft process that he said he was willing to take batting practice with the Pirates before their game with the Cincinnati Reds at PNC Park.
Wearing a tie under his Pirates jersey, he said, “I’ll take this suit off and mess around. Give me some tennis shoes and let’s go.
“I love the game. I love the work that goes into it,” he said. “I love working on my swing. I love playing defense, love shagging ball during BP.”
At South Alabama this season, Swaggerty hit .296, with a .526 slugging percentage, 10 doubles, 13 home runs and 38 RBI. Last summer, he hit .328 for the USA Baseball Collegiate National team.
Huntington said every scout who evaluated Swaggerty had a different version of his abilities.
Those opinions ranged from hitting a baseball to drawing a walk and stealing a base to playing defense to his toughness and intensity.
“As you started to hear them each talk, you recognize we have a chance to have a pretty special young player,” Huntington said.
But that’s in his past. He now embarks on the sometimes long trip through the minor leagues. Drafted as a college player, however, he could move up faster than a player selected directly from high school.
Swaggerty realizes that as of Friday, baseball is much more than a game.
“I have goosebumps. I’m sitting here shaking still. This is real. This is my job now.”
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.